THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE ACTION(!) – FEBRUARY 19, 2021

Mika Hyer, mhyer@lcv.org, 940-783-2230

Your weekly resource to learn what the environmental movement is saying about the news of the day and the political fight of our generation. Be sure to follow LCV on Facebook and Twitter.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“Whether it’s flooding from severe weather events like hurricanes or it’s something like this severe cold, the history of our response to disasters is that these communities are hit first and have to suffer the longest. These are communities that have already been hit hardest with Covid — they’re the households working two minimum wage jobs, the essential workers who don’t get paid if they don’t go to work.”

— Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University and an expert on wealth and racial disparities related to the environment in a New York Times article, “Texas Blackouts Hit Minority Neighborhoods Especially Hard”.

“We know that the number one indicator in America of whether you live around toxic sites, whether you drink dirty water, or breathe dirty air is the color of your skin.”

— Senator Cory Booker in his remarks during LCV’s launch of the 2020 National Environmental Scorecard this week

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is key. It’s a key component to have access to the outdoors. There’s so much inequity by now as to who gets access to these green spaces, right?”

Vianey Olivarria, Chispa AZ communications director, in an interview with KJZZ

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LCV IN THE NEWS:

The Washington Post: Deb Haaland’s nomination to lead Interior is a historic first for Native Americans. The GOP wants Biden to cancel it.
The Hill: League of Conservation Voters adds racial justice issues to 2020 congressional scorecard
E&E: House Democrats vow probe of Texas crisis
Politico: Texas in Crisis
E&E: New E&C Republicans reflect party’s split on climate
Yubanet: New Collaborative Calls on U.S. Senate to Confirm Haaland as Interior Secretary
Bloomberg: Biden Has Chance to Boost Leftward Tilt on D.C. Circuit (1)

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: 

LCV’s affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:

KJZZ (AZ): Biden Administration Restores Land And Water Conservation Funding
Philadelphia Inquirer (NJ): Gov. Murphy announces new climate office and $100M to electrify ports, buses
WABE-NPR (GA): Overcoming Challenges, Georgians Vote In Record Numbers. Organizers Want To Keep Them Engaged

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THOUGHTS WITH TEXAS: As rolling blackouts, failures of power plants, and water treatment and distribution networks continue to leave millions of Texans without power or running water in frigid, deadly conditions, our hearts are with these Texas communities. And, as is too often the case, when extreme weather conditions and other climate-fueled disasters hit, it’s the communities who have long been excluded from governance and decision making — communities of color and low-wealth communities — who are impacted first and worst.

CHISPA TAKE: Chispa joined a coalition of advocates, including Mi Familia Vota, Houston Youth Climate Strike, Texas Campaign for the Environment, the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, and other Texas organizations demanding transparency and accountability for actions leading to a massive failure of energy distribution to millions of Texans when they needed it the most. The coalition is organizing citizens to take action by signing a petition to demand answers from Governor Abbott and urge lawmakers to use emergency funds for low-income communities who have had pipes burst and will struggle to pay astronomical prices for life-saving utilities during a crisis.

2020 SCORECARD: On Thursday, LCV released its 2020 National Environmental Scorecard, the primary yardstick to evaluate the environmental records of members of Congress at a virtual press conference with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker, and Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Representative Kathy Castor. This years’ report reflects on approaches lawmakers in the House and Senate took to tackle interconnected crises plaguing our nation: the COVID-19 pandemic, economic inequality, racial injustice, and climate change. While the diverse, pro-environment majority in the House of Representatives prioritized climate action and relief for communities of color and low-income communities on the front lines of these crises, it’s apparent that the Republican-controlled Senate blocked relief and progress at almost every turn. The Scorecard is available in English and Spanish at scorecard.lcv.org 

SENATE TAKE: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized, I plan to make the fight against climate change a top priority. We need bold action to tackle the crisis. We needed it yesterday. That’s why I supported the THRIVE agenda. It represents a bold blueprint for climate action that’s centered around the well being of people. It calls for tackling climate change, tackling economic inequality, and racial injustice at the same time. So that as we tackle the climate crisis, we also help communities that have been left behind in major economic transitions. I’m confident that working alongside President Biden and House Democrats we can pass an economic recovery bill that reflects these principals in the THRIVE agenda.”

OUR TAKE: LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “During an incredibly difficult and unprecedented year and with the most anti-environmental president ever, pro-environment members of the 116th Congress paved the way for vitally important action on climate and environmental justice. Now the pro-environment trifecta — led by President Biden and Vice President Harris, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader Schumer — is poised to enact transformational progress that results in healthy, equitable, safe communities powered by clean energy.”

BONUS ANALYSIS: The 2019 and 2020 versions of LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard have shown that bills passed to protect our air, lands, and wildlife and to combat the climate crisis were led by members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), collectively referred to as the Tri-Caucus. What’s more, Tri-Caucus members have been vocal advocates of strong environmental policies, addressing environmental injustice, and spoke up in a record number of congressional hearings on climate change. See our report on the impacts of environmental leadership from congressional caucuses, available for download in both English and Spanish here.

PROTECT DEMOCRACY: Last weekend, the majority of Senate Republicans refused to convict former President Trump for inciting a deadly white supremacist insurrection at the Capitol, and in doing so, they failed our democracy. The inability to convict Trump — who repeatedly undermined our country’s election results — highlights the need for Congress to pass the For the People Act, H.R. 1 and S.1., to protect the right to vote and ensure elected officials are held accountable to the people. House and Senate leadership have made democracy reforms their first priority — the fight for accountability must continue through returning power to the people. H.R. 1 and S.1 are critical measures needed to restore our access to our democracy, fix our broken campaign finance system, and enact sweeping ethics reforms in order to address the needs of our communities, not special interests, including meaningful action on climate change. This isn’t the first time our communities have been denied justice for racist, undemocratic actions — and we won’t be deterred until solutions are enacted.

LANDS PACKAGE: On Tuesday, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced that the House Rules Committee will consider a package of Natural Resources Committee bills, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, early next week ahead of a full House vote on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The package includes key legislation to protect our nation’s air, water, and lands by protecting 1.2 million acres of public lands from new oil, gas, and mining claims — permanently protecting iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon and Colorado’s Thompson Divide for future generations. This bill will also designate 1.49 million acres of public lands as wilderness and incorporate over 1,000 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This package is a significant step towards preserving public lands for people and the outdoor recreation economy. 

NEW COLLABORATIVE: On Wednesday, more than 20 organizations, including LCV, announced a new collaborative — The People, Public Lands and Climate Collaborative — which will take an intersectional, justice-driven approach to public lands protection and climate action.  The collaborative aims to promote sustainability, climate resiliency, and healthy communities and economies; protect, connect, and restore critical landscapes and lands; and reduce emissions from the energy produced on public lands. Their first official action was to urge the Senate to confirm Representative Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior.  

OUR TAKE: LCV Conservation Program Director Alex Taurel said, “America’s public lands are majestic expressions of our democracy. They are also sites of dispossession, forced removal, and exclusion for many Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, while the fossil fuels extracted from our public lands account for more than one-fifth of this country’s climate pollution. It’s time to chart a new path for American conservation by making access to nature more equitable and harnessing the power of our public lands in the fight against climate change that’s disproportionately harming communities of color. We look forward to working with our partners in the People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative on solutions to these urgent challenges.” 

HAALAND CONFIRMATION HEARING: Next week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is slated to hold a hearing on Representative Deb Haaland’s nomination for secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, Haaland would be our nation’s first Indigenous cabinet secretary, and this is a pivotal step toward ensuring that Tribal communities — who have long been excluded and overlooked in this country’s governance — can see themselves, their ideas, and their leadership reflected in the management and decision making of our public lands. Haaland, who received a perfect 100% on LCV’s newly released 2020 National Environmental Scorecard, has a stellar record of fighting for people, science, climate action, and the protection of our iconic landscapes and cultural sites.  

OUR TAKE: In anticipation of Haaland’s nomination in December, LCV Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld said, “Congresswoman Deb Haaland is a force — an inspirational leader and advocate for climate action, conservation, and sovereign Tribal Nations. She’s well positioned to drive forward Biden’s ambitious conservation agenda — including protecting 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 — and ensure we use all of our tools to fight climate change and share nature’s benefits equitably with all communities.  The contrast between the oil lobbyist David Bernhardt and the first Indigenous person to lead Interior could not be more stark.” 

CVNM TAKE: In anticipation of Haaland’s nomination in December, Conservation Voters New Mexico Director Demis Foster said, “Representative Haaland, if confirmed, will be the first Indigenous person to lead the Interior Department. She will bring her community-centered connection to land and water to her leadership role in ways that fully embody New Mexico’s  deep-rooted values. Her nomination signals the Biden administration’s recognition of the need to truly engage and consult with the tribes and pueblos on land decisions and acknowledge that we are all occupying Indigenous lands.”  

👋PARIS, NOUS AVONS RETOURNÉ: On day one of the new administration, President Biden recommitted the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement, reasserting our leadership on the world stage while also pledging to go further and mobilize every major country to make deeper cuts to their own carbon emissions. This step forward for international progress toward addressing the growing climate and biodiversity crisis became a reality today, as it is our first official day back in the agreement. And, thousands of local leaders from across the country are encouraging national mobilization for climate action through America Is All In. Paris, we have returned. 

OUR TAKE: LCV Vice President of Government Affairs Sara Chieffo said, “Our re-entry into the Paris agreement could not come at a more critical time, as climate fueled extreme weather grips the country and Texas communities, especially communities of color and low-wealth communities, suffer without access to power and clean water. We’re grateful to the leaders of many cities and states who maintained our commitments to Paris in the absence of federal leadership over the last four years, and thrilled that President Biden has reasserted our international commitments — and pledged to go much further. Our formal return to Paris is cause for celebration that must pave the way for transformational progress on climate and environmental justice that results in healthy, equitable, safe communities powered by clean energy.”

CEQ DUMPS TRUMP GHG GUIDANCE: This week, the Biden-Harris administration’s Council on Environmental Quality announced it is withdrawing the 2019 Draft Greenhouse Gas Guidance that the Trump administration issued. The Trump administration’s guidance attempted to narrow federal agencies’ consideration of climate impacts in their NEPA reviews of energy, infrastructure, and other projects. While the Trump administration attempted to ignore science at every possible turn, the Biden-Harris administration is quickly adopting an all-of-government approach to responsibly confront the climate crisis.   

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STATES:

NINE STATES TO WATCH: In the first weeks of 2021, governors and state legislators  have announced bold steps to protect our environment, tackle climate change, and create thousands of good jobs. This follows years of bold state and local leadership that has resulted in 1 in 3 people in this country living in a place committed to 100% clean energy. LCV and our state affiliates have put together a memo outlining the clean energy progress nine states are poised to make this year. Right now states are laying out a bold clean energy blueprint the nation can follow. Read more here

CLEAN CARS PASSES STATE SENATE (VA): Today, the Virginia Senate voted to pass House Bill 1965 from Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond), which will implement zero-emission and low-emission vehicle standards in Virginia. The Senate also passed House Bill 1979 from Del. David Reid offering $2000 in upfront customer rebates and up to $4500 to low income consumers to make pollution-free EVs easier to buy, drive and own in Virginia.

VALCV TAKE: Virginia League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Mike Town said, “In 2020, and now 2021, Virginia’s General Assembly has taken leaps and bounds forward in tackling the climate crisis, first by working to secure our transition away from fossil fuels to power our daily lives, and now by moving to reduce harmful tailpipe pollution by putting cleaner cars on the road. We are not across the finish line yet, but we’re close. We thank Delegates Bagby, Reid and Sullivan for their leadership, and urge lawmakers to finalize this huge victory for clean air, climate action, and a more sustainable future.” Read the full statement here.

RESTRICTING VOTING (GA): The Georgia state legislature rolled out a slate of anti-voting bills in response to the record participation and groundbreaking results of the 2020 elections and subsequent runoffs. Spoiler alert: IT’S BAD. They are attempting to repeal no-excuse vote by mail, require voters to submit a photocopy of their ID to vote by mail, ban weekend voting, ban providing food and water to voters waiting in long lines, ban mobile voting and create new administrative positions that would “assist low performing counties.” Long story short, the U.S. House’s H.R. 1 and companion in the Senate, S. 1, would prevent most of the damage these anti-voting bills threaten to cause. It’s time to protect the peoples’ role in our democracy. 

$100 MILLION AND FIRST EVER CLIMATE OFFICE (NJ): On Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy used his executive authority to create a new Office for Climate Action and the Green Economy and put $100 million toward electrifying New Jersey’s ports and buses. The funding to electrify transportation comes from the state’s Volkswagen settlement and revenue raised through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Murphy noted that environmental justice will be a priority in both initiatives, and highlighted the opportunity clean energy provides the state, “Climate change is a reality we must face, not with fear and apprehension but with an understanding that the clean energy economy is a once in a generation opportunity for New Jersey.” 

NJLCV TAKE: New Jersey LCV Executive Director Ed Potosnak said, “Governor Murphy’s announcement today gets us one step closer to realizing the 21st century sustainable green jobs economy that most New Jerseyans say they want — and the future that we and our partners have been calling for.”

COMING UP:

ALL OF FEBRUARY – Black History Month
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23 — Confirmation hearing for secretary of the Interior-nominee, Representative Deb Haaland
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24 — House to vote on the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act

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